Watch West End family dramas on the London stage

Enter the homes of these loving but fraught families in West End plays such as Long Day's Journey Into Night and musicals like Back to the Future.

Marianka Swain
Marianka Swain

You just can’t beat family when it comes to riveting drama. Perhaps that’s because no one gets under your skin quite like the people you love and who know you best – and who are bonded to you by blood, like it or not. From Greek tragedy through Shakespearean slanging matches and contemporary clans, shows with family drama at their centre have always ruled our stages.

That’s certainly true of London theatre this year, which features a range of bickering families – from plays like Long Day's Journey Into Night, starring Succession’s Brian Cox, to musicals such as Next to Normal and Back to the Future.

So, if you’re eager to get a sneak peek into someone else’s family drama, whether through a new work, a starry revival or a celebrated musical, get some inspiration from our round-up of the best family shows in London.

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Back to the Future

The particular conundrum that Marty McFly faces in this hit musical adaptation of the beloved movie isn't the most relatable. How many of us have accidentally time-travelled to the 1950s, where we must get our parents to fall in love so that our family won’t be wiped out – except, slight issue, our mother fancies us?

OK, that’s probably just Marty. But we can definitely relate to his love for his family, and the way his relationships with his parents are redefined once he gets to know them as people. Plus this hugely entertaining West End show has a rocking score and incredible special effects: entertainment for the whole family.

Book Back to the Future tickets on London Theatre.

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Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Eugene O’Neill’s masterpiece was inspired by his own troubled family, which is why this heartrending play has such a ring of truth. It features the Tyrones, who are battling both their various illness and addictions, and one another.

This star-studded West End revival is led by Brian Cox, who knows all about dysfunctional families after playing Logan Roy in Succession, as well as Patricia Clarkson, Laurie Kynaston, Daryl McCormack, and Louisa Harland.

Book Long Day’s Journey Into Night tickets on London Theatre.

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Standing at the Sky’s Edge

This original British musical has travelled from Sheffield to the West End, while retaining its core exploration of whether “home” is really a place or the people you love. Following three generations living in the same housing estate, it’s a beautiful, funny, and moving exploration of family – whatever form that comes in.

Chris Bush’s brilliant script is matched with songs from Sheffield singer-songwriter Richard Hawley, including the gorgeous “Open Up Your Door” and the mighty title number, which opens the second half in unforgettable fashion.

Book Standing at the Sky’s Edge tickets on London Theatre.

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Mrs Doubtfire

Divorced dad and out-of-work actor Daniel Hillard will do anything to see his kids – even disguise himself as a Scottish nanny named Mrs Doubtfire. But dressing as a woman makes him realise how he could become a better man, and a really great father.

The brilliantly inventive stage musical adaptation of the classic Robin Williams movie comedy builds on that idea of quirky family life, and includes a lovely new subplot which sees Daniel’s gay brother and his partner trying to become parents too. No doubt: it's a must-see.

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The Little Foxes

The Olivier-winning director Lyndsey Turner revives Lillian Hellman’s legendary play, set in 1900 Alabama, which sees siblings, parents, cousins, and children tear one another to shreds as they vie for control of the family business.

Another play based on a real clan, it’s a barnstorming drama, and was turned into a movie starring Bette Davis. More recently, Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon starred in a Tony-winning revival. Turner’s Young Vic cast is yet to be announced.

Book The Little Foxes tickets on London Theatre.

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Next to Normal

Everyone is trying their best in the Goodman family, but mum Diana has bipolar disorder, and her husband and kids need help and understanding too. Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s rock musical is beautifully empathetic – no wonder it won both Tony Awards and the Pulitzer.

We finally got a production in London when it premiered at the Donmar Warehouse, and now it’s heading to the West End – with the amazing cast of Caissie Levy, Jamie Parker, Eleanor Worthington-Cox, Trevor Dion Nicholas, and Jack Ofrecio – giving you a second chance to see this unforgettable show.

Book Next to Normal tickets on London Theatre.

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Family also defines Disney’s mega-hit Frozen, now a majestic West End musical. At its heart is the relationship between the two very different sisters: serious, anxious Elsa, who hides her magic away as her parents taught her, and goofy, open-hearted Anna, who doesn’t understand why she’s been left all alone.

Watching the siblings gradually reconnect over the course of the show is utterly joyful, as is seeing the additions to their found family – Olaf, Kristoff, and Sven. All your favourite songs from the movie are there, like “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” and “Let It Go”, plus the stage show has new numbers such as a duet for the sisters, “I Can’t Lose You”.

Book Frozen tickets on London Theatre.

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Shakespeare plays

If it’s a family drama you’re after, you’ve got plenty to choose from at Shakespeare’s Globe. The 2024 summer season includes Much Ado About Nothing, which sees a community torn apart when bride-to-be Hero is wrongly accused of promiscuity – much to the fury of her father Leonato and agony of her cousin Beatrice. Thankfully, since Much Ado is a comedy, we also get a sparring romance and a happy ending.

More complications arise in The Comedy of Errors, which features two sets of long-lost identical twins, while The Taming of the Shrew features two very different sisters and their parallel journeys to marriage.

Book Shakespeare's Globe tickets on London Theatre.

Photo credit: main image Long Day's Journey Into Night. (Photo by Johan Persson)

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